Jack LaLanne was/is my hero, for several reasons . For one, there was the local interest as he grew up near my home, in Berkeley, CA and had one of the first health clubs in Oakland . I remember, as a kid, watching his TV program in living black and white. He was older but I loved his spirit and self-assured attitude, something perhaps lacking in myself. He would sing ‘There’s No Tomorrow’ to the melody of “o Solo Mio,’ more familiar to me then as Elvis Presley’s ‘It’s Now or Never.’

Before exercising was popular, Lalanne was perhaps the one guy one could believe in. He was certainly laughed at, by some, in the beginning, though he must have had enough believers like me, as he stayed on the air for 34 years from the fifties thru the seventies and has continued to spread his gospel until now thru his spectacles like pulling boats on his birthday, local appearances and special events. I even bought not one, but two of his juicing machines just because they were his. (Actually, I had forgotten I bought the first one when I bought the second.) Unlike more recent, trendy, younger, fitness gurus , many of whom LaLanne has outlived, Jack was all about simple, common sense exercising. It was pushups, sit ups and the like. `Most of the other gurus faded fast, and passed on at younger ages, as LaLanne continued to spread his message. There was Pritikin, of the Pritikin diet and Atkins of the high card diet. Jim Fixx wrote the book how running could keep you fit, only to pass on while he was jogging, at a young age.. Then there was the Power Bar guy who passed at age 51. LaLanne even outlived his local protégé, Norman Marks, who LaLanne helped put in busines with one of the first health clubs, in Oakland, on Harrison and 14th Street, not far from some property my parents owned; though Marks passed a couple years ago at 86, the club lives on.

With LaLanne there were no gimmicks, other than a simple simple ‘band’ to give one a deeper strectch or a chair to lean on. Sure, he sold some vitamins and the juicer, hailed by some; even if I could never get behind it I still have the box it came in proudly displayed high on a kitchen shelve with Jack smiling down. I remember his TV program, which aired out of San Francisco, which featured just Jack in his jumpsuit, sometimes accompanied by his dog. Organ music would swell when Jack told viewers to breathe out.

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A few years ago, I purchased a plaque from Jack , himself, that hangs proudly on my wall . It features a young Jack with his dog (pictured here), along with a piece of film from his old TV show and a ‘Certificate of Authenticity,’ showing that my plaque was ‘#57’ of limited edition 1,500. Included is the handwritten note, ‘To Burt, Best of Exercise…’ and also signed by Elaine. I will prize this plaque especially now. I’ve been to Jack’s favorite San Francisco haunt, the legendary John’s Grill, where a salad is named after him. I hear the candles are lit tonight in Jacks honor. I will try to pay tribute, myself , over the weekend. One of the last true hnd colorful characters is gone. He will be missed but remembered by some of us and in pages such as www.OldiesCountry.com and http://www.SeniorCountry.org.

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